The Stones Cry Out
As Jesus traveled from Bethany to Jerusalem for the last time during his life on earth, his disciples broke out in a spontaneous celebration. They threw palm branches down in front of Jesus. They shouted, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” We remember this event as the “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem. It’s an ironic name since only a week later, Jesus would be crucified. As always, Jesus redefined our expectations of the Messiah. He found triumph in surrender.
As Jesus moved along slowly on that donkey colt, some Pharisees got caught up in the crowd of his disciples. You can almost hear their annoyance in Luke’s account of the scene:
“Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
It’s easy to pass by this interaction and focus mostly on the idea of stones crying out. We think of it as a poetic image, because we all know stones don’t make noise.
Except when they do.
The Jordan River Valley is not just the place where the Jordan River flows. The valley exists because it’s an active geological fault, the joint between two colossal continental plates. The west of the river is the African plate, and the east of the river is the Arabian plate. So the Jordan River didn’t carve the valley. The valley gave the river a place to flow.
Like all geological faults, the Jordan Valley is a hotspot for earthquakes, and the Bible describes many of them. Perhaps the most devastating happened during the lifetime of Amos, which left a mark on the archaeology of the entire region. Ancient historian Josephus reports that Solomon’s Temple itself was damaged in the quake. Josephus also reported a mountain splitting in two with a giant rock tumbling into a ravine.
I can hardly imagine the sound that would produce with massive rocks grinding and tumbling and cracking. And so, as I think again about Jesus’ comments as he entered Jerusalem, I see him looking forward to a time when his disciples would indeed be silent as he hung there on the cross. That silence was broken by the cry of the earth itself, as the ground shook. Jesus was right. The rocks did indeed cry out.
Matthew records a second quake some forty hours later. Early Sunday morning, the ground shook again as Jesus rose again and death itself was defeated. This time, the stones cried out in triumph not in grief. The Son of God was alive again, and the world would never be the same.
Redemption had begun at last.